A controversial contract between the Jefferson Parish Council and a consultant advising it on the leasing of West Jefferson Medical Center could be amended to ensure the parish gets what it pays for. The contract has been criticized by the parish’s inspector general.
The council has called a special meeting for Thursday to discuss and probably approve changes to the contract with Pennsylvania-based financial consultant Josh Nemzoff that would change the agreement from a flat monthly fee to one that pays Nemzoff by the hour for his services.
According to council members, Nemzoff rejected that structure when parish officials initially discussed the contract with him.
The changes were apparently spurred by discussions between Inspector General David McClintock and members of the Parish Council during an executive session just before the council approved Nemzoff’s contract last week by a 4-3 vote.
Council members Paul Johnston, Cynthia Lee-Sheng, Mark Spears and Ben Zahn all supported the original agreement, while Elton Lagasse, Chris Roberts and Ricky Templet voted against it.
The three dissenters all have supported LCMC Health in its bid to lease West Jefferson Medical Center, while those supporting Nemzoff’s hiring have largely spoken in favor of other health care companies and touted Nemzoff’s critical analysis of LCMC’s finances earlier in the now 2-year-old leasing process.
Johnston said Wednesday he wanted to reconsider the contract after considering recommendations from McClintock and hearing concerns that the contract calls for Nemzoff to receive $50,000 a month regardless of how much work he puts in.
“On Thursday and Friday the parish attorney and my office got in touch with Nemzoff and said this is the way it has to be. At first he wasn’t in favor of it,” Johnston said.
The council did not discuss the contract amendments when it met Wednesday.
Both McClintock and Roberts, a supporter of LCMC, said they had not been told of those conversations with Nemzoff until the issue was raised during Wednesday’s council meeting.
Roberts pointedly asked Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee why he and other LCMC supporters had not been informed that a change to the contract was being proposed.
“What’s the protocol in your office to decide who you communicate with and who you don’t?” Roberts asked.
Foshee said she had spoken with several council members and their aides and had communicated with those seeking to reopen the issue.
McClintock, who has argued the contract should be based on an hourly rate, also came under questioning from Nemzoff supporters, who suggested he should not have discussed his concerns with the media. McClintock said that once a measure is passed, his office has the right to comment on it.
“I think it’s fantastic we’re making those changes,” McClintock said. “But it was passed. At that juncture I’m not going to take it for granted that it’s going to be revisited.”
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.